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Monday, March 31, 2008

Barack Hamilton?

An interesting passage from Barack Obama's economics speech:

The great task before our Founders that day was putting into practice the ideal that government could simultaneously serve liberty and advance the common good. For Alexander Hamilton, the young Secretary of the Treasury, that task was bound to the vigor of the American economy.

Hamilton had a strong belief in the power of the market. But he balanced that belief with the conviction that human enterprise “may be beneficially stimulated by prudent aids and encouragements on the part of the government.” Government, he believed, had an important role to play in advancing our common prosperity. So he nationalized the state Revolutionary War debts, weaving together the economies of the states and creating an American system of credit and capital markets. And he encouraged manufacturing and infrastructure, so products could be moved to
market.

CaribWorldNews thinks Obama should put even more emphasis on Hamilton:
Anyone who does not know America's Greatest Immigrant was born and raised in the Caribbean, shame on you. It is unclear how much Barack Obama knows about Hamilton beyond the glowing words contained in his speech on Wednesday in which Obama had no hesitancy to proclaim that Hamilton's vision for America is his.
I am pleased that Obama is invoking Hamilton. And I agree that Hamilton's vision sometimes meant intervening in markets. But it also meant knowing when not to intervene in markets, as when Hamilton turned aside the idea, pushed by Madison and others, that original holders of Confederation bonds should be given full value, after having sold their bonds at lower prices.

My recent article on Hamilton is here. A relevant radio interview is here. For some negative takes on Hamilton, see items by William Hogeland and Brian Doherty (I have comments at both).

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